Another Earth Directed by: Mike Cahill Cast: Brit Marling, William Mapother Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: July 29, 2011 (Chicago)
PLOT: While a second planet hovers in the sky, a young woman (Marling) hopes to help the victim (Mapother) of her vehicular manslaughter incident recover from his grief, five years after the incident.
WHO'S IT FOR?: If your whistle is whet by the mentioning of the movies Moon or even Primer, chances are you’ll at least have a positive reaction to this movie. If you thought either of those movies were boring or just really weird, then stay away from Another Earth.
EXPECTATIONS: Before seeing this film for the first time at SXSW 2011, I had little idea about the movie, aside from hearing that some people at Sundance liked it. Seeing the movie for a second time, I was curious to see how it would hold up, and if my impression of the movie would change much.
Brit Marling as Rhoda Williams: Possible new indie “It”-girl Brit Marling gives a buoyant performance as the woman at the center of this story who floats around the movie, with the drama of the story square on her shoulders. She's an engaging fore in the movie, even if she's taking part in dull activity that achieves realism but startles pace. Score: 6
William Mapother as John Burroughs: Mapother is a bit bumpier than Marling with his portrayal of sorrow, often at times looking a bit melodramatic (a tendency to wear hoodies and have the same zonked expression). His best moment is when he's not speaking, but playing a mournful musical saw. Score: 5
TALKING: The dialogue is very natural, especially with its spare amount. Although there's a second Earth hovering in our sky, strangely, there's not a lot of scenes in which the Earth inhabitants discuss the phenomenon. It's just there, amongst everyone's quiet doings in the film. Score: 7
SIGHTS: In the style of other breathy independent movies, Another Earth takes its time, and shows all the details (grocery shopping, etc.) While the film does have moments of indie-ingenuity effects wise, it also has blaring, distracting errors that remind the audience of how cheap the production is. Call this nitpicky, but there's a strange tendency to disregard capitalization on billboards, and the website that Rhoda applies for is extremely bare, especially for a website that would likely have millions of visitors. Another Earth has power in its simplicity, but there are certainly moments in which its low budget has a better or worse effect regarding an audience's chance of getting into its story. Score: 6
SOUNDS: It's not often you hear a musical saw being played, but the unusual musical instrument does have some effect here. Mapother plays the saw in a quieting scene that shows a saw's theremin-like potential, both as a weeping instrument, and as one highly familiar with the sci-fi genre. Fall On Your Sword scores the film with hollow pianos or speaker-busting electronica music. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: The interaction between the news reporter and her reflective self is a fairly tense moment, in a very simple manner.
ENDING: Rhoda faces the last person she'd ever want to see on this planet.
QUESTIONS: You can read my interviews with Brit Marling and director Mike Cahill when I post them next week before Jeff's review comes out.
REWATCHABILITY: Another Earth is a movie that could generate some interesting discussion with those who have seen it. But its long-winded scenes could make repeat viewings really tedious. For the most part, it's not a movie you can get sucked into.
Another Earth is a film of two genre worlds. One part is a quiet sci-fi movie about “Earth Two,” a curious star in the sky that eventually starts to resemble our own planet. The other side of Another Earth is equally vague and tenderly told: it’s the story of a girl hoping to make peace with herself and the father whose family was ruined by her vehicular manslaughter (she was captivated by Earth Two when driving).
Echoing an astro-physiological concept briefly discussed in a particular Oscar-nominated movie from last year, Another Earth is also bound to be 2011′s Moon. Like Source Code director Duncan Jones’ debut, Another Earth takes indie film audiences to a certain unknown, with its patience and tranquility often feeling like its being told in a dimension not of our own.
While the final product is certainly fine, Another Earth would be even better as a twenty or even thirty minute short film. Taking cues from other cheap independent movies that feature characters being shown doing anything and everything, Another Earth extends its story to feature length, but at the cost of being a smooth, if not hypnotic experience.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10